Autumn 2013

Autumn 2013

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Knits, knits, knits

Hello, everybody, and welcome to the Apple Basket! 
This week, we have a lot of knitting talk, and some book talk. I have been writing my August microstory and done some pattern writing, as well.
So, school has started – Monday morning saw all of the naught-to-ninth graders back, including a very tired Victor who had to go more or less straight from four intense days of music to the everyday humdrum of school.
Thomas, being a third-year of the gymnasium now, had a few rituals to follow: it appears that they have to party on the night before the first day of school, and that the first-years need hazing – just a bit, and the school has forbidden the customary throwing of water on the poor kids. Only glitter is allowed, which of course kept no-one from carrying cans of spray-on hair dye as well. So, for a couple of days, the streets of Viborg (and many other places, I’m sure) saw a lot of young people sporting uncharacteristically multi-coloured hair. And glitter.

The Knitting
This week, the knitting section includes advertising!
In the interest of full disclosure: I heard about this on CraftLit – so if you’re a listener, you know already – and this chat earns me a spot in the giveaway. So, I have not seen this book in real life, but obviously, I hope to get a copy. Anyway, here goes:

The lovely Andi Smith, a.k.a. knitbrit on Ravelry, has made a gorgeous sock book for everybody whose feet are not standard-sized. Which means, well, everybody.
The title of the book is Big Foot Knits, but it is really for big feet, little feet, wide feet, narrow feet, large ankles, long ankles, skinny legs, fat muscular calves – like me! – and everything in between, in whatever combination of features YOU have. So, if you knit socks, for yourself or others, this is a book for you.
The book contains a method for measuring, calculating, &c, to make the sock fit the foot exactly. You can rest assured, too, that the explanations are straightforward and thorough: Andi has a child with autism and thus a LOT of practice in breaking down complex explanations into manageable bites (believe me, I know the drill ...).
And all of the 12 pretty sock patterns are named for goddesses – how can you not love that!

So, let’s see if I get a copy – otherwise I’ll just have to shell out. Because I want this book.
Nice sockses, my precious.

And while we’re at it (advertising, that is): I finally published my lace shawl that I have been going on about for months, while knitting, writing, editing, fixing errors found by my sister, and knitting again.
So, I present to you the Bequin shawl:

The name hails from a book, the Eisenhorn trilogy – or to be precise, the first book in that trilogy – by Dan Abnett. I have mentioned these books before: they belong in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, where ‘there is only war’ against Chaos, fought by the representatives of the God-Emperor of Terra.
The story is that the Imperial Inquisitor Eisenhorn picks up a pleasure girl – not for his pleasure, mind you, as part of a case – and soon after that, she accompanies him on an undercover job, dressed in a porcelain blue dress and a cream-lace shawl.
Of course, my first thought was if this shawl was knitted and how it may look.
It wasn’t chosen by the girl, Alizebeth Bequin, but inherited from Eisenhorn’s partner Lores Vibben who is killed in the first scene of the book. So, which kind of lace shawl would an Imperial Inquisitor (or Inquisitrix) choose for herself? Nothing frilly or even remotely doily-like; feminine but cool. Hence the regular stitch pattern, the parallel lines of the faggoting, set into the geometric shapes.
It may have a complicated look, but it is really quite simple to knit, a succession of yarnovers paired with decreases.

And it seems to be popular on Ravelry – relatively, nowhere near Hitchhiker or Color Affection level, but still.
I’m pleased, anyway.

The birthday knit for Laura is done and delivered; it is now Sunday evening, and I am posting pictures on Ravelry and here of the Laura cardigan:

Now, before you shout at me for being lazy and not coming up with a hobbit name, let me hasten to inform you that Laura is, in fact, the name of Bilbo Baggins’ paternal grandmother.

Laura had wished for – among other things – 20 Barbie dolls; I found her a beach girl and decided that she would need more clothes, wearing only a bikini. The two other Barbies she got are accompanied by horses and dressed accordingly. The beach Barbie, though, has bigger a.k.a. more natural feet, which I am quite pleased with.

Ravelry has, not surprisingly, lots of doll clothes, including links to a Swedish site,, featuring more than 1,000 outfits, all for free. The patterns are generally available in Swedish, English, Danish, German, French and some in even more languages.
I ended up devising something matching the cardigan.

Maybe Barbie will need something for everyday wear, too – apart from ball gowns and riding clothes.

The Books
I am still reading the Philippic speeches of Cicero along with The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough.
This last century of the Republic was bloody to an extent that can be hard to fathom. Cicero mentions in one of his speeches from 43 BCE that he has lived through five civil wars: three in the 80’s, the one between Caesar and Pompey in the early 40’s, and this one between Marcus Antonius and the Senate. The clashes back in the 80’s between Sulla and Sulpicius, Cinna and Octavius, Marius and Sulla, had their origin in part in the war of the Italian Allies in the 90’s, and all entailed proscriptions of thousands of Roman senators and knights.
And some of the troubles with the Italian Allies sprang from their dissatisfaction with the Roman habit of enlisting men for the legions, more and more forcibly, to fight on various fronts: Africa, Spain, the Germans who struck terror into the hearts of all Romans – and for good reason. Before 100 BCE, Italia had almost run out of men; farms were left untended, widows struggled to feed fatherless children, while whole legions were cut down by barbaric hordes.
So, wars external and internal, the slave rebellion led by Spartacus in 73-71, bitter in-fighting among the upper class to protect their privileges against any homo novus, new man, who might come and claim his share of the power and glory. As Gaius Marius did, and later Cicero. And against any member of an old family who might challenge the wealth and possessions of the rich by giving some to the poor. As the brothers Gracchus did – they were both killed in action, so to speak, murdered while performing their duties as representatives of the People.
This was not an easy time.

Men bearing the same names crop up in both sets of events, the 100’s and 44-43 BCE; the younger ones being the sons or grandsons or nephews of the elder. The Roman habit of naming the eldest son after his father does not help a lot to avoid confusion. This is, of course, a lesson in itself: the same families were at the top of the political system for centuries on end, so of course the same few nomina gentis – family names – and cognomina – surnames – will appear multiple times within the turbulences of a single century.
Caecilius Metellus, Domitius Ahenobarbus, Julius Caesar, Aurelius Cotta, Cornelius Scipio, Claudius Appius, Aemilius Scaurus &c: all these names are found again and again, with only first names and maybe extra surnames to distinguish one from the other.

A note on names: girls in Roman families were designated as belonging to their family rather than having individual names. Thus, the aunts, the sisters, and the daughter of Gaius Julius Caesar were all named Julia; Caesar’s mother was an Aurelia, daughter of Lucius Aurelius Cotta, and girls from the families mentioned above would be Caecilias and Cornelias and Claudias. Of course, they had nicknames; Marcus Junius Brutus’ youngest sister was known as Tertia, the third.

This apparent lack of individuality can seem shocking; but, as I mentioned before, boys were named for their fathers, and thus a family typically used two or maybe three names for their sons, generation after generation. The Caesars were Gaius, Sextus, or Lucius; the Antonius family used Marcus for centuries, until the actions of Marcus Antonius after the murder of Caesar (I wrote about some of these last week) made them decide never to use that first name again.
Indeed, there were so few names for boys that abbreviations were unambiguous: M. is always Marcus, C. is Gaius (because it was originally the Etruscan Caius), L. is Lucius, &c. Easy peasy.

While knitting lace this week, I listened to Great Tales from English History vol. II by Robert Lacey (no pun intended) and read by the author. This is – well, it pretty much does what it says on the tin: well-known, popular stories about historical persons and events are explained inside their historical framework. So, this is history made approachable by story-telling; the titles of chapters recall mnemonic rhymes, children’s stories, &c.
Thus ‘Divorced, Beheaded, Died’ and ‘Divorced, Beheaded, Survived’ are about, of course, the wives of Henry VIII; ‘Five-Eleven’ regards the actions of Guy Fawkes and his group – and so on.

Recently, I listened to an interview with the Japanese-Canadian writer Ruth Ozeki on the Guardian Books Podcast, about her book A Tale For the Time Being. This was a good way to have the book introduced, to get a feel for what it is before reading or listening to it.
A Japanese girl, Nao, writes a diary inside a ‘hacked’ copy of Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu – and the Japanese-Canadian writer Ruth finds the diary on the beach by her home in British Columbia.
The book is read by the author herself, which is often brilliant – one detail that I love is that neither Ruth nor Nao speak perfect French; but while Ruth merely pronounces the title of Proust’s book with an American accent, Nao rather butchers it.
I’m only a couple of hours into the 14-hour book, so there’s a lot I can’t discuss yet. But I like it.
Time is a central theme; Nao writes in her diary something like ‘I reach into the future to touch you [the reader], and you reach into the past to touch me’. Also, I’m guessing, it is no coincidence that the hacked book that is turned into a diary is about the search for lost time – all of which leads me to wonder about Nao’s name that does sound very much like ‘now’.
I’ll have to get back to you on that.

Well, this is it for this week! I do hope you have a great week; I will be back – on Saturday, next time, as the whole of my Sunday is booked.
Stay happy, stay healthy

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